It was a weekend of high drama in the final league round of 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby action, with a number of upsets and quite a few emotional goodbyes as the regular season came to an end.
On Saturday afternoon, the Toyota Cheetahs gave their new coach Franco Smith something to smile about at the end of a tough season when they won for the first time ever in Pretoria as they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 42-29.
Shortly after the match, the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd and the Blue Bulls Company Board of Directors confirmed that Frans Ludeke had stepped down from his position as Vodacom Super Rugby and Absa Currie Cup head coach with immediate effect.
The DHL Stormers were crowned champions of the South African Conference despite going down by 34-10 to the Cell C Sharks in Durban, as the KwaZulu-Natalians bade farewell to a number of Springbok stalwarts.
The Capetonians will host the Brumbies at DHL Newlands in the second Qualifier next Saturday afternoon, at 17h05. The first Qualifier is an all-New Zealand affair between the Highlanders and the Chiefs in Dunedin (09h35 SA time), also on Saturday.
Tickets for the DHL Stormers’ match against the Brumbies match go on sale from Monday, June 15 at 12h00. Prices range from R80 to R350 and DHL Newlands season tickets are valid for this match. For more information or to book tickets, visit wprugby.computicket.com.
DHL Newlands Box Office ticket sales open on Wednesday, June 17. Tickets can also be bought at Computicket outlets and Shoprite/Checkers stores nationwide.
The Hurricanes and Waratahs finished in the top two positions on the log and will enjoy a bye next weekend before hosting semifinals the week thereafter.
Vodacom Bulls 29 (10) Toyota Cheetahs 42 (28)
The Vodacom Super Rugby season came to an enjoyable end for the Toyota Cheetahs when they won for the first time ever in Pretoria, beating the Vodacom Bulls by an emphatic 42-29 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors outscored the home team by six tries to four, with four of the Toyota Cheetahs’ tries coming during an inspired first half where they defended physically, forced turn-overs and used all their opportunities.
It was one of the Toyota Cheetahs’ best performances of the season, with Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Clayton Blommetjies and Sarel Pretorius dotting down before the break.
On the contrary, the Bulls missed way too many simple tackles, failed to produce points when they had the chance and made way too many mistakes in general play. Jesse Kriel’s try in the fourth minute was probably the only highlight for the home team in the first half.
The visitors stretched their lead to an almost unassailable 35-10 early in the second half when Steven Sykes went over.
Although the Bulls scored three tries in the second half, with Francois Hougaard dotting down twice and Pierre Spies rounding off in his final match for the Pretorians, the Cheetahs hung on and got two more tries – by Sykes and Ryno Benjamin – to seal a well-deserved win.
It was a sad farewell for Spies, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques du Plessis and Jacques-Louis Potgieter, all of whom will move on from the Bulls, but Pretorius and Willie le Roux got a fitting farewell from the Cheetahs as they prepare to further their careers elsewhere.
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: Francois Hougaard (2), Pierre Spies, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty goal: Potgieter.
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Sarel Pretorius, Steven Sykes, Ryno Benjamin. Conversions: Niel Marais (6).
Cell C Sharks 34 (13) DHL Stormers 12 (9)
The Cell C Sharks finished their Vodacom Super Rugby season on a high with a 34-12 victory over the DHL Stormers at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday evening, outscoring the visitors by five tries to none in the process.
It was a fitting farewell to three stalwarts of Sharks rugby, Willem Alberts, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, who scored one of the home team’s five tries.
After a slow start, where their defence was a strong point in the first half hour, the KwaZulu-Natalians slowly increasing the pressure on the Capetonians, who knew their Qualifier fate before kick-off and travelled to Durban with a big number of fringe players in the starting line-up.
With DHL Stormers flyhalf Kurt Coleman keeping the scoreboard ticking over for his team, his Sharks counterpart Lionel Cronje scored the first try of the match in the 18th minute, before his halfback partner Stefan Ungerer ensured the home team went into the break in the lead with a 13-9 lead with his team’s second try.
But the Sharks really stepped up a gear in the second half, with Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane crossing the white-wash to ensure they finish the season with 40 minutes of good rugby.
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane. Conversions: Cronje (2), Fred Zeilinga. Penalty goal: Cronje.
DHL Stormers: Penalty goals: Kurt Coleman (4).
Other results – Round 18:
Blues 7 Highlanders 44
Rebels 11 Force 13
Brumbies 24 Crusaders 37
Chiefs 13 Hurricanes 21
Waratahs 31 Reds 5